Good Afternoon folks!
Just a little note. It’s Sunday. that always gives me a feeling of nostalgia as does Saturday afternoons. Those were the times when I would sit quietly in front of the television set. All the other kids were outside scrambling around getting sweaty and dirty and doing well, what most kids do be mean to each other. Me, I chose to inhabit the mysterious worlds that Roger Corman, Jack Arnold, William Castle, Universal and RKO pictures had the good sense to give us “outliers” of society. Those of us who Identified with the monster. Thus the nickname Monster Girl. A name the neighborhood kids used to taunt me with, not realizing that eventually I would wear it as a badge of honor.
I owe much of my creativity as a songwriter and artist, to these films that validated my existence. These monsters were my true friends, because they helped me cope with the awkward phases of childhood when you just don’t fit in, and never will. These films are more than just nostalgic memories for me, they were my epiphany into the real world as an imaginative, compassionate, empathetic and yes a visionary in some ways. With my music and my writing. I plan on doing extensive individual posts about some of these great films.
Like Incredible Shrinking Man. Creature From the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space. It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d share a little tidbit of the old days, when Jack Arnold bestowed upon us Giant Spiders and one little guy who had to fight one off in the basement of his house, a common environment turned sinister and dangerous, where it takes a whole day of strategizing to get a moldy crust of bread the size of a small crouton to us.
During the years of 1950’s horror and sci-fi films made by the great Jack Arnold there was a sympathetic, symbiotic lens that Arnold used towards aliens and “The Other” and the outsider. While working at Universal along side the production of William Alland, he gave us our first venture into the genre offering us benevolent yet mystifying aliens who crash land near a small town, inside a mountain and merely need time to fix the spaceship in order to leave earth.
It Came From Outer Space (1953) based on a story by Ray Bradbury the prolific science fiction writer of that era, as did Richard Matheson who told of bizarre, inscrutable and very advance race of one eyed amorphous creatures who could assume the form of any human in order to facilitate the uninterrupted repair of their ship. The aliens were not here to seize the planet to enslave earth people, nor destroy earth in order to be the ultimate life form in the universe, threatened by the advancement of our weaponry, fear of the bomb in that age engendered many bomb, cold war scare films.
Like Invaders From Mars (1956) and Don Siegel’s Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1956),fear of Communism and losing our individual identity as well as the patriotism and national prowess. The visionary writers and film makers knew how to frame this message in their flights of fantasy films. The last major film that Arnold did was the sublime and metaphysical masterpiece The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). A film that still inspires chills up the back of my neck when Grant Williams realizes that he isn’t disappearing, merely becoming greater as he is subsumed by the vast universal heart beat of the unknown yet interconnectedness and essence of life force itself.
The Incredible Shrinking Man was based on Matheson’s novel and actually scripted by him as well. Shrinking Man and It Came from Outer Space are still considered two of Arnold’s best work. The film that has really become his most iconic as an enduring classic is Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
Creature From The Black Lagoon had no involvement from either writer. In fact, it was because this film was so successful for Universal, that it prompted them to direct their attentions specifically in more productions that involved Sci-Fi and Horror films after 1954 many of which were directed by Jack Arnold.
In a lot of ways, aside from the money that these films made for Universal, it’s really the charm of Arnold’s films that make this specific moment in history for the genres to remain in the hearts of those of us who remember watching them on rainy Saturday afternoons, or like I said the sunny ones when you didn’t fit in with the nasty jerk heads in the neighborhood, so you’d rather hang out with the sort of cute green scaly guy who could stay underwater for days at a time.
David J Skal who’s a hell of a writer, I recommend The Monster Show refers to Creature as the “most vivid formative memories a large segment of American population”
Like The Twilight Zone, Serling’s compact morality plays tied up in fantasy story telling, for a lot of us these offerings became the rituals that were quickly picked up on by the “mass media” The desire for these type of stories became the contemporary trend that inspired great writers and film makers like Stephen King, John Carpenter and even Steven Spielberg.
Much the same way that H.G Wells fantastical tales inspired a hunger for films about science marvels and other worlds.Edgar Wallace, Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft and Hawthorne inspired the Gothic horror, horror mythos and crime thriller.
Arnold’s films evoke formative memories not only of being frightened by the elements of horror, but it brings you right back to the feeling of being that child again. At least if you’re like me and rail against growing older and losing your imagination. King and Carpenter have spoken about the individual films of Arnold that gave them their first cinematic experience which like for me, changed their lives forever. You could say that Arnold’s films could be used as a benchmark and cultural reference or jumping off place for teenagers to identify with feeling alienated by society. The 50’s were a period where the generation of teenagers were influenced by these types of films. Later on filmmakers would self consciously pay homage to Arnold’s films. And every decade or so, we also see a revived interest in the use of 3D, which make movie going a sort of ritual collective event. The glasses, the group experience.
Anyway, I plan on going in depth about Arnold and several of my most memorable beloved films of his. I just wanted to write a little Sunday hail to the king of giant bugs and little people, (not like the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz) I mean people who were once big enough to drive a car, and can now sleep in a match box for shelter.
Have a great Sunday, I think I’ll watch Tarantula (1955) . I’ve got my hot cocoa and it’s raining outside. The cats are all purring and I think it’s a perfect time to watch a little arachnid suddenly growing as large as a Semi and ambushes a whole town. I’m still kind of traumatized by the woman who’s skirt get’s stuck in the car door!
See ya later! MG
PLEASE DON’T HOLD IT AGAINST THIS CAT! Grant Williams was bite size…….
Contemplating man’s place in the universe. The Transcendent Man
Leo G Carroll’s well intended experiment, produces horrific results of great proportions!
Julie Adams is the object of The Creature’s affections.
One thought on “The Films of Jack Arnold: Visions of Giant bugs, sympathetic monsters and little men danced in his head.”
-Amazing film that left us more than images, more than entertainment, they left us values….–I saw them in the 50’s, at magnificent cinemas on big sceen…thanks